Turn­ing a hall into a home

Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity, vet­er­ans join forces in la­bo­ri­ous task of over­haul­ing Bur­ril­lville eye­sore

Woonsocket Call - - Front Page - jbis­son­nette@paw­tuck­et­times.com By JONATHAN BISSONNETTE

BUR­RIL­LVILLE — A dor­mant gath­er­ing hall that’s been an eye­sore on Wal­lum Lake Road for nearly 20 years be­came a hub of ac­tiv­ity on Satur­day as Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity West Bay and North­ern Rhode Is­land part­nered with armed forces vet­er­ans for a “Vet­er­ans Build Day.”

Gary Le­fran­cois, pres­i­dent of Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity West Bay and North­ern Rhode Is­land, ex­plained that over the years, a num­ber of busi­nesses tried to ac­quire the prop­erty but ran into zon­ing is­sues that wouldn’t al­low it to hap­pen. Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity, though, was even- tu­ally able to pur­chase the par­cel with plans to ren­o­vate the long-va­cant sin­gle-story cin­derblock build­ing into a sin­gle-fam­ily home.

The project takes about six months to com­plete, with vol­un­teers and mem­bers of Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity work­ing ev­ery Satur­day, but com­ple­tion of the project will be de­layed un­til they have a fam­ily for the home. Le­fran­cois ex­plained that’s be­cause home­own­ers are re­quired to put in 300 hours of “sweat eq­uity” in con­vert­ing the hall into a home, as Habi­tat owns the land but the home has a zero in­ter­est rate mort­gage and no down pay­ment.

The hall will re­ceive a new

roof and win­dows as it’s con­verted into a three-bed­room, one-bath­room 1,500-square­foot home. Le­fran­cois said this is “one of the big­ger ones” that Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity has taken on.

“It re­quired some ex­tra work.”

Most no­table among the work was that ceil­ings were 13 to 14 feet high – “mon­strous,” as Le­fran­cois put it – so work­ers had to lift the floor to meet eight-foot ceil­ing heights, which Le­fran­cois said are more cus­tom­ary and re­duces the need for ad­di­tional heat­ing.

Also, with the build­ing made of cin­derblock, work­ers on Satur­day were “rim­ming” the walls with two-by-four studs to in­stall in­su­la­tion and sheet rock be­tween the in­te­rior walls and the ex­te­rior cin­derblock.

Amy Gates, vice pres­i­dent of Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity West Bay and North­ern Rhode Is­land, ex­plained that Satur­day’s project was part of Habi­tat’s “Vet­er­ans Build” pro­gram, which seeks to pro­vide home­own­er­ship, crit­i­cal home re­pairs, em­ploy­ment, and vol­un­teer ser­vices to vet­er­ans, ser­vice mem­bers, and their fam­ily.

Gates said that when vet­er­ans re­turn from ac­tive duty, there’s tra­di­tion­ally a 30-day “hon­ey­moon” pe­riod where every­thing is fine, but af­ter that, some find them­selves in need of a pur­pose to keep their minds busy. Thus, the pro­gram al­lows them to un­der­stand “they have a place” and helps rein­te­grate them back into so­ci­ety, Gates said.

When she sees the trans- for­ma­tion of the hall into a home, Gates says she’s im­pressed.

“At first, it was look­ing like noth­ing but to see it progress and see a home to com­ple­tion, it’s get­ting to come to­gether … When vet­er­ans get in­volved, peo­ple feel so much pas­sion,” Gates said.

Le­fran­cois, mean­while, said that they “take great joy in see­ing the fam­ily more in­volved. We stay con­nected for years to come. If they need a fix or ex­pand, they can come to us … We don’t just walk away from a home.”

With Satur­day be­ing Vet­er­ans Day, the build took on even more sig­nif­i­cance with most of the vol­un­teers be­ing vet­er­ans them­selves, Gates said.

“It’s a way for them to con­nect with each other and build re­la­tion­ships and share their sto­ries to ul­ti­mately come to­gether,” Gates said.

Jonathan Bissonnette/The Call

Richard Tra­bing of Uxbridge works in­side the home on Wal­lum Lake Road.

Pho­tos by Jonathan Bissonnette/The Call

The in­te­rior, top photo, and ex­te­rior, above, of the prop­erty be­ing over­hauled at Wal­lum Lake Road.

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